Business vs. environment debate hurts Northeners, says Arctic Economic Council

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“The Arctic is our home and it defines who we are as a People,” says the AEC’s outgoing chair Tara Sweeney (right) at a news conference in Fairbanks, Alaska with incoming AEC chair Tero Vauraste. (Eilis Quinn/Eye on the Arctic)
FAIRBANKS, Alaska – When it comes to Arctic development, it’s time to move on from old ‘business vs. the environment’ debates and think about Northerners says the outgoing U.S. chair of the Arctic Economic Council.

“There are some groups of society that would like to make this into an, either/or, competing question but you can be a good environmental steward and have business development at the same time,” Tara Sweeney, also executive vice president at Arctic Slope Regional Corporation, said at a news conference on Tuesday, after handing the AEC’s rotating chairmanship over to Finland’s Tero Vauraste.

“What the Arctic Economic Council also aims to do is to ensure that subarctic businesses who want to come and do business (here) are also good actors and good stewards. The Arctic is our home and it defines who we are as a people. We want to ensure that this is taken care of and that we have the opportunity to remain in this area because of polar growth.”

Putting business issues on the agenda

The Arctic Economic Council was a Canadian initiative under that country’s most recent Arctic Council chairmanship (2013-2015). The AEC was conceived to advise the Arctic Council on business issues. Now, it also facilitates business-to- business activities for northern-based companies or those elsewhere who want to do business in the North.

Though a separate body from the Arctic Council, the AEC leadership changes hands amongst the eight circumpolar countries in concert with the Arctic Council rotating two-year chairmanships.

Arctic Economic Council meeting room in Fairbanks, Alaska. Representatives from all six of the Arctic Council’s indigenous groups are represented at the AEC. (Eilis Quinn/Eye on the Arctic)
Climate adaptation

The changing Arctic environment is creating both challenges, and opportunities for northern communities and the business community has a role to play responding to both, says the AEC.

“Climate change means we need new innovations to meet (environmental) targets which is a business opportunity,” said Tero Vauraste, the incoming AEC chair and president and CEO of Finnish state-owned icebreaker operator Arctica Ltd.

Erling Kvadsheim, AEC Vice Chair, Norway and director, international affairs at the Norwegian Oil and Gas Association, says a pan-Arctic approach to share best practices and technologies will become more and more important in the years ahead.

“Climate is a global issue whether the activities influencing the environment take place in the Arctic or along the Equator,” Kvadsheim said.

“The AEC is creating an arena for cooperation between the countries and then actually utilizing the different experiences and the different knowledge that we have in the Arctic countries.

“That is an important thing.”

Write to Eilis Quinn at eilis.quinn(at)cbc.ca

Related stories from around the  North:

Canada: Nunavut gears up for increase in Arctic tourism, Radio Canada International

Finland:  Finnish business leaders optimistic about Russian market upswing, Yle News

Iceland: High peak in low season, Iceland’s mass-tourism boiling over, The Independent Barents Observer

Norway: Norway doubles Arctic oil estimates, The Independent Barents Observer

Russia: Russia’s Ministry of Economic Development wants 210 billion rubles for Arctic regions, The Independent Barents Observer

Sweden: Northern Sweden cities on shortlist for battery gigafactory, The Independent Barents Observer

United States: Inuit organization plans economic development across national boundaries, Alaska Dispatch News


The Arctic Council chairmanship moves from the United States to Finland on May 11, 2017 in Fairbanks, Alaska. Eye on the Arctic’s Eilís Quinn along with EOTA media partners and contributors will be bringing you stories, interviews and analysis leading up to the handover.
Read our full coverage here!

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Eilís Quinn, Eye on the Arctic

Eilís Quinn, Eye on the Arctic

Eilís Quinn is a journalist and manages Radio Canada International’s Eye on the Arctic circumpolar news project. At Eye on the Arctic, Eilís has produced documentary and multimedia series about climate change and the issues facing Indigenous peoples in the circumpolar world. Her documentary Bridging the Divide was a finalist at the 2012 Webby Awards. Eilís began reporting on the North in 2001. Her work as a reporter in Canada and the United States, and as TV host for the Discovery/BBC Worldwide series "Best in China" has taken her to some of the world’s coldest regions including the Tibetan mountains, Greenland and Alaska; along with the Arctic regions of Canada, Russia, Norway and Iceland.

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